The trial of Uzoma Udemba, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Communication Trends Limited, began on February 24, 2021 before Justice Agatha Okeke of the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC presenting two witnesses who tendered relevant items and documents which were admitted in evidence.
Udemba, a pay television operator is being prosecuted by the Uyo Zonal Office of the EFCC alongside his company, Communication Trends Limited (CTL) and one Samuel Onyeanuforo for allegedly broadcasting English Premier League matches without the permission of the MultiChoice Nigeria Limited, the rights owner.
When the trial stared today, Ezeh Oliver Emmanuel, a MultiChoice anti-piracy specialist while being led in evidence by Nwandu Ukoha, counsel to the EFCC, informed the court how he was mandated by MultiChoice Nigeria Limited to investigate the Infringements on its intellectual property rights in Akwa Ibom State.
The PW1 said, “I went round and visited some hotels, joints and clubs. I found out that really, some of our contents which include the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italia Serie A, Telemundo, ZeeWorld and even Super Sports channels were being viewed illegally at those locations I visited. Upon further inquiry, I was told that they used Communication Trends Limited”.
The witness narrated that he located CTL’s office in Uyo under the guise of buying its decoder and found out that the channels he mentioned earlier which MultiChoice Nigeria Limited has exclusive rights over, were rebroadcasted by CTL for commercial purposes.
“Further proof revealed that CTL belongs to Uzoma Udemba (the second defendant); also Samuel Onyeanuforo (the third defendant) is part of the management of CTL, Uyo”, PW 1 said.
The witness said he reported his findings to his office. He said while waiting for further directives, the Uyo zonal office of the EFCC called him, requesting him to lead operatives of the EFCC to CTL’s office.
“Upon getting to the CTL’s office with operatives of the EFCC, they were led to the operation room by a staff of CTL”.
According to the witness, “there was a television from the control room, so myself and the operatives of EFCC were able to see all the channels MultiChoice Nigeria Limited has exclusive rights over, being rebroadcasted by CTL.
“While in the control room, I also discovered gadgets which include, modulators, encoders, transmitters, Trencord decoder and antenna, Starsat decoder, Star Times decoder, amongst others. The EFCC moved all these equipment and the staff present there to their office”.
The equipment which the PW1 made mention of, were shown to him and he identified them. When Ukoha sought to tender them, Douglas Najime, the defence counsel objected on the grounds that there was no connection between the equipment and the defendants and that there is no inventory of all the items mentioned. “They were not taken and signed in the presence of the parties”, he said.
The defence further argued that the witness is a staff of the nominal complainant. These “items ought to have been tendered through a staff of the EFCC. There is contamination of chain of custody”, he said.
Responding, Ukoha wondered “if we are here for technicalities or for justice. His objections hold no water and I urged the court to disregard his objections.
After listening to both parties, the court overruled the objections of the defence, and admitted the items in evidence as exhibit P1 to P21.
The prosecution also presented its PW2, Umar Ibrahim Abdulaziz, head of anti-piracy for MultiChoice Nigeria who told the court how they discovered infringements of their intellectual property rights by CTL and wrote to the Commission.
The petition from MultiChoice Nigeria Limited, dated October 7, 2019 was shown to the PW2 and he identified it. It was tendered and admitted in evidence as exhibit P22, 1 to 11.
PW2 also told the court that MultiChoice Nigeria Limited wrote English Premier League “to verify if they gave CTL rights to rebroadcast and they said they never gave them such rights as MultiChoice Nigeria Limited has exclusive rights to do so”.
The matter was thereafter adjourned to February 25, 2021 for continuation of trial while the court set aside the order for bench warrant made on January 27, 2021. The defendant is to continue enjoying earlier bail granted him by the court.
Earlier, the EFCC closed its case in a case of N15m contract scam involving one Charles Emmanuel Afaha, a staff of Maritime Academy, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, before Justice Agatha Okeke of the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Afaha is being prosecuted by the Uyo zonal office of the EFCC, alongside one Engineer Stephen Imo (1st defendant) and his company, Stemo Engineering Services Limited ( 2nd defendant), on a three-count charge bordering on forgery, conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of over N15m from the coffers of the Academy, on the pretext of executing contracts which were non-existent.
When the matter came up today, the fourth prosecution witness, PW4, Ogbonna Omoke Kennedy, an operative of the EFCC, who was led in evidence by T. N. Ndifon, counsel to the EFCC, told the court that the defendants submitted an Interim Payment Certificate 1 and 2 (IPC) to the Maritime Academy, requesting for N15m, for contracts they never executed.
The prosecution thereafter closed its case and the matter was adjourned till April 19 and 20, 2021 for continuation of trial.